Posts tagged: communication

Jun 20 2016

Word Addiction :: Systemic vs Systematic

I see people saying “systematic oppression” when I am pretty sure (based on context) they men “systemic oppression.”

Systemic oppression is oppression by the system, due to the way the system works.

Systematic oppression is oppression that happens regularly in a particular way.

So systemic oppression can be systematic.

But yeah, when you’re talking about ableism due to the way society thinks of disability, that’s systemic oppression because it’s from/by the system.

I know, confusing. And go ahead and keep using the word that works for you. I just know some people will care and will appreciate the information. 🙂

May 16 2016

Word Addiction :: Role model vs modelling behaviour

A role model can model behaviour, but nobody can “role model” behaviour. The reason is that the term “role model” is a noun (i.e., a person, place, or thing), not a verb (i.e., an action). The word “model” can be either a noun or a verb. People model clothing for catalogues, and they are called models. Once you modify the word “model” and turn it into “role model,” however, you have made it a noun, and it cannot be used as a verb, because that is not its grammatical function.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here are the definitions of both terms, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

role model noun: a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others
Examples of ROLE MODEL
Athletes should remember that they are role models.
First Known Use of ROLE MODEL
model noun
1 obsolete : a set of plans for a building
2 dialect British : copy, image
3 : structural design <a home on the model of an old farmhouse>
4 : a usually miniature representation of something; also : a pattern of something to be made
5 : an example for imitation or emulation
6 : a person or thing that serves as a pattern for an artist; especially : one who poses for an artist
7 : archetype
8 : an organism whose appearance a mimic imitates
9 : one who is employed to display clothes or other merchandise
10 a : a type or design of clothing; b : a type or design of product (as a car)
11 : a description or analogy used to help visualize something (as an atom) that cannot be directly observed
12 : a system of postulates, data, and inferences presented as a mathematical description of an entity or state of affairs; also : a computer simulation based on such a system <climate models>
13 : version 3
14 : animal model
Examples of MODEL
She’s building a model of the Earth for science class.
a plastic model of the human heart
We’ve improved on last year’s model, making the car safer and easier to control.
He bought one of the old 1965 models.
We couldn’t afford one of the fancy TVs and had to buy the standard model.
We’ve developed a computer model of the economy to predict what will happen in the future.
Companies are developing new business models.
First Known Use of MODEL
model transitive verb
1 : to plan or form after a pattern : shape
2 archaic : to make into an organization (as an army, government, or parish)
3 a : to shape or fashion in a plastic material; b : to produce a representation or simulation of <using a computer to model a problem>
4 : to construct or fashion in imitation of a particular model <modeled its constitution on that of the United States>
5 : to display by wearing, using, or posing with <modeled gowns>
intransitive verb
1 : to design or imitate forms : make a pattern <enjoys modeling in clay>
2 : to work or act as a fashion or art model
Examples of MODEL
The faces of the gods were modeled in white stone.
They’re modeling this year’s new spring fashions.
She got a job modeling shoes for a catalog company.
a fashion model who has angered animal lovers by modeling fur coats
First Known Use of MODEL
model adj
1 : serving as or capable of serving as a pattern <a model student>
2 : being a usually miniature representation of something <a model airplane>
Examples of MODEL
Our university has a model program for training its athletes.
<why can’t you be like your sister, who is such a well-behaved model child?>
First Known Use of MODEL
Mar 14 2016

Writing Tips :: Parentheses

Have you ever heard the phrase “parenthetical remarks”? That basically means that the remarks aren’t the meat of the message but could still be important. In writing, we can use parentheses to enclose an interjection, a clarification of some kind, a list, or even an entire sentence or group of sentences. Which you use when, and how you punctuate them, is what we’re going to cover today.

Like I often do, let’s look at each situation using examples. Examples make it easier to understand a concept and how to apply a technique.

First up: interjections. In dialogue we would use em-dashes (—) to set these apart but in prose it makes more sense to use parentheses.

Sally had on a pair of walking boots (they were last year’s fashion but still quite serviceable), grey woollen socks, and a pair of worn denim overalls.

Note that the punctuation that belongs after the word “boots” goes after the closing parenthesis. This is because everything inside the parentheses applies to the boots, and if we take all of that out our sentence is still a perfectly good sentence.

Next up: clarifications. Sometimes these are things like acronyms, and sometimes they are statements.

The staff are all required to obtain First Aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification as soon as possible (i.e., within three months of hire).

Here we get a note that “CPR” stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation as well as clarification that “as soon as possible” actually means “before the probation period is up.” This is important information but is not essential to the overall message of the sentence, so it is in parentheses.

Moving on to lists! Lists can seem tricky at first because they include commas or semicolons between the items, but if you remember the rule I gave for interjections you’ll do fine.

The shelves in the closet held a lot of board games (e.g., Sorry!, Clue, Candyland, Twister), but The Game of LIFE wasn’t there.

See? Easy! The punctuation that goes with “board games” goes on the outside of the parentheses, but you have commas between the names of the board games themselves.

Okay, one more. How do you use parentheses to enclose an entire sentence or group of sentences?

Someday Cathy will learn the truth. (She won’t like it when she does, but she will.)

Just like that! See how the parentheses enclose the entire sentence, including its closing period? That’s because it’s a separate sentence from the one it’s responding to. This is great for asides in prose, because you can give the most important information in a really straightforward manner and then make snarky comments in parentheses afterward. (Not that I ever do that. Really. Okay, maybe a little bit.)

And that is your crash course on using parentheses! I’m sure I missed something, but these rules should stand you in good stead for most of the times you might need to use them. Go forth and make parenthetical remarks!

Feb 08 2016

Writing Tips :: When to capitalize nouns

Okay, story time: When I was in grade eleven, we wrote a lot of personal essays for English class. One was supposed to be about something we believed in. I worked pretty hard on mine and wrote about Santa Claus. I capialized a lot of words that didn’t really need to be capitalized.

On the day we were supposed to get our papers back, the teacher said he was very sorry but partway through reading our essays he had to stop and take a long break because one of them was really hard to understand.

That essay was mine.

I still got a good grade, but he wrote on the back that “it is customary to provide an industrial-strength Tylenol with an essay such as this” (not a direct quote, but you get the gist). Sorry Mr Moore! I didn’t mean to give you a massive headache!

So there are rules for writing that are meant to help keep things clear. These rules have to do with punctuation, spelling, grammar, and capitalization (among other things). The rules for capitalization are pretty simple: you capitalize the first word of a sentence, and you capitalize proper nouns.

Proper nouns are actual names of people, places, or things. So you capitalize “France” (a country is a place), “French” (a language is a thing), and “Francois” (a name of a person). You don’t capitalize “city” (it is too general), “knife” (again, too general), or “girl” (too general). (You do, however, capitalize “That Girl” but only when you’re talking about the TV show, so again it’s a specific thing.)

Here’s an example with a word I often see capitalized incorrectly. I will provide examples to show you the correct uses of capitalization depending on the way the word is used.

  1. The doctor read the patient’s chart.
  2. Dr Solomon was an expert geologist.
  3. Doctor Who is correctly known as The Doctor because that is his name.

Here’s another rule you should observe — the one I totally ignored when I wrote that essay I opened with: do not use capitalization to provide emphasis. That’s what bold and italics (or even ALL CAPS) are for. Capitalizing a word that is not a proper noun gives it undue importance and will cause your reader to wonder just how and why it is that important. Save everyone the need for industrial-strength Tylenol and leave the extra capitals in your keyboard, where they belong.

Oct 14 2015

Writing Tips :: Avoiding Jeopardy Sentences

You know how on Jeopardy! (the game show) you get a statement and then you have to provide the question the statement answers? So you might get “By writing post-dated cheques and mailing them, and by setting up bill payments using online banking” as your statement, and the question is “How does Mary keep her accounts from going into arrears?”

A Jeopardy sentence would be “By writing post-dated cheques and mailing them, and by setting up bill payments using online banking is how Mary keeps her accounts from going into arrears.”

The problem with structuring your sentences this way is that it distances the action from the subject, so that it’s harder to understand what the subject is actually doing. I’ve seen the first part of a Jeopardy sentence get so long that the author forgot to put the second part in, so it was just a list of things with nobody doing them (that started with the word “through”).

To avoid writing a Jeopardy sentence, do what you were told in school when you started answering long answer questions on tests: restate the question and then put the actual answer. Written this way, our example now reads “Mary keeps her accounts from going into arrears by writing post-dated cheques and mailing them, and by setting up bill payments using online banking.”

And if you absolutely must use a Jeopardy sentence, leave out the “is how”; a comma will do just fine to separate the clauses here: “By writing post-dated cheques and mailing them, and by setting up bill payments using online banking, Mary keeps her accounts from going into arrears.”

Clear writing is often just that simple, believe it or not!

Jun 27 2012

Hot Topics: Treating your work like work.

If you are really going to make a go of this writing (or editing) thing, you need to treat it like work, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s work to get the words on the page in the right order. It’s work to edit your words to make them say what you mean. It’s work to edit someone else’s words to make them say what they mean without obscuring the author’s voice!

What takes you from being a hobbyist to being a professional? Here are a few things that I think are important in making the switch:

  1. You have (and stick to) a work schedule. It doesn’t have to be 9-5, nor even eight hours a day, but you should block out your days and decide when you’re going to work. You should also objectively evaluate the projects you have on the go, and do your best to ensure that you’re meeting your deadlines (whether self-imposed or given by clients). Paying work should generally take precedence over personal projects, unless you’re finding that you have no time at all for your personal work: then you need to assess your work situation and decide whether you need to increase your work hours or decrease the number of paid projects you take on at once.

    I work afternoons during the week and prefer to work on personal projects over the weekend, especially if I’ve had so much paid work during the week that I haven’t been able to do much personal work.

  2. You have (and follow) a policy regarding invoicing and payment by clients. Your policy needs to take into account how often you invoice (e.g., at the end of each project, on a monthly basis), when payment is due (e.g., upon receipt of the invoice, within 30 days of receipt of the invoice), and when you will send a reminder about an overdue payment (e.g., 30 days after sending the invoice, two weeks after you expected payment to arrive).

    My policy is to send invoices on a monthly basis. The invoices list all projects completed for that client during that month. My invoices are numbered (very important so that you and your clients can be sure you are talking about the same document), and they state that payment is due upon receipt. I do, however, keep myself informed of the policies of my clients, so that if a client’s policy is to pay all invoices within 30 days, I wait until that 30 days are up before sending a reminder about an unpaid invoice.

  3. Your communication is professional when dealing with work topics. If you are writing to another writer or editor, you need to ensure that you are using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This goes double for when you write to a client. You should try to avoid being too casual with your business contacts when you are discussing business, even if they are your friends. You don’t have to address clients by their last names if you have known them for a long time, but you should try to maintain professional language in the body of your message.

    My primary client is a company for which I was an employee for about six months. As a result, I know many of the people with whom I communicate on a more personal level than I might had they hired me through my web site. When I e-mail anyone in the organization, I begin with “Hi FIRSTNAME.” Depending on the person and the reason for the e-mail, my language may be more or less formal, but I do my best to maintain a sense of professionalism.

A quick note regarding doing work for free: I consider volunteer (unpaid) work to be on a par with paid work in terms of importance. I know that many professional freelancers will say that doing volunteer work is a terrible way to run a business, but I consider it an opportunity to gain practice with various skills that my paying clients may not require on a regular basis. It also allows you to collect more items for your portfolio. It does not lower the value of your work in any way, and it does not hurt your reputation. My main caution regarding volunteer work is that it is very important to volunteer for things you enjoy doing. For example, my primary volunteer work right now is doing the leaflet for Sunday services at the church I attend. I offered to do the leaflets each week on a volunteer basis for a few reasons: first, I saw a need that I could meet; second, my parish cannot afford to hire any kind of office staff; and third, leaflet design is a skill I learned when I was a church secretary, and it is something that I care about very much.

If you’re going to work at writing, work at writing. Devote time and attention to this activity, and work to become better and better at it. Don’t be afraid to take on volunteer projects, but also don’t be afraid to ask people to pay you if they owe you money. And be professional in your communication as a writer or editor. You can’t expect people to hire you or to keep working with you if your communication doesn’t demonstrate the skills you are trying to put to use.

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